Now Playing: Super Mario Bros. 1-“4”

Oh Mario. How you give me the nostalgias!


I recently decided that it had been a ridiculously long time since I played the old Mario games so began this little Mario marathon just the other day.

3, I had replayed a few times since back in the day, but 2 not so much, and I don’t think I’ve touched 1 since it came out. I started 1 with the idea that I would be a hardcore Mario and plow through all 8 worlds without using warp zones or cheats. I made it about 1/3 of the way through before I lost all my lives and had my memory refreshed that there are no continues in this game. This game is wayyyyyy harder than I remember it being.


A lot of the difficulty stems from the fact that the controls are fucking awful. I forgot just how terrible Mario’s movement was in the original. Jumping and turning is so clumsy feeling and that momentum that drags you forward just enough to get you killed almost every time you try to come to a stop from a jump or run, makes it near impossible to have really solid movement precision. Anyway, I realized that this was not going to happen the way I wanted to so I went for the good old 1up glitch. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.


I really needed those lives too, because movement issues aside, the game just gets ridiculously tough in the later levels. Horrible levels of trick jumping over endless pits, screens full of flying Bullet Bills, castle mazes that give you absolutely no indication that you’re choosing the right path, etc. etc. It’s a mess. The game doesn’t hold up well at all in general. The gameplay is just so painfully basic, yet at the same time, unwieldy, and the environments and enemies are just so lacking in detail that it’s not much fun to look at. Most of the levels are really just the same level just with a different color background and slightly different object/enemy placement. I know, I know, it was the very first NES game so of course it was the roughest in comparison to all the rest, but it just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Even so, I had gotten that far so I went ahead and finished.


Bowser is defeated and your surprisingly ugly princess has been saved and all you get for it is a “second quest” which just loops the game again, but with tougher enemies. No thanks. Next!


Super Mario Bros. 2 suffered from that early wave of NES sequel-itis where the 2nd entries in their biggest hit games were suddenly vastly different than the originals and for the most part. You know, like Castlevania 2 and Zelda 2. Ok games, but they strayed too far from the original successful formulas while trying so hard to be different that they just weren’t as good. In Mario’s case, his sequel wasn’t even a real Mario game, but some other game that I forget the name of that had Mario and friends’ faces slapped on it because Japan felt the real Super Mario Bros. 2 would be too hard for us dumb Americans (and they were totally right. I’m not even going to touch The Lost Levels. That game is truly sadistic.), but hey at least you got to forcefully shove the eggs of a transvestite (don’t believe me? It’s right there in the game manual.) anthropomorphic dinosaur back down its own throat.


So yeah. This game is NOTHING like the first one and the mechanics are just baffling. Jumping on guys does nothing. Instead you have to jump on their heads, pick them up and throw them, or pick vegetables out of the ground to throw at them. You have a life bar now and the only way to increase it is to find magic potions amongst the vegetables and then use them to make magic doors that take you to a mirror image of the screen you’re on, called the negative zone, where a mushroom is hiding, except you have to use the potion on the exact screen where the mushroom is located and not only do these locations get increasingly further from the potions and in more obscure places as the game goes on, but there is no way to know where the right place is without using up the potion and hoping for the best. Fun times.


You also only get 2 continues and very few lives and like the first one, the game gets ridiculously difficult once you’re near the halfway point. On the plus side, the characters control better than the first one, which you’re really going to need for the incredibly punishing jumping levels ahead. What this did have in common with the first one was a bit of a nostalgia fix, but also a lot of disappointment at how poorly this game holds up over time. I remember now why no one ever really talks about Super Mario Bros. 2 anymore. It took many pints of Guinness to make these unfortunately displeasing games even partially fun, but I guess it did the trick because I still finished this one anyway too (and yes I cheated again STOP JUDGING ME!).


Note to self: do not ever play Super Mario Bros. 1 or 2 again. Ever. Next!


Ahhhh. Now HERE is the fun Mario Bros. I remember. Super Mario Bros. 3, which, if The Wizard taught us anything, only losers didn’t play! Now this one was fun. Packed full of levels and secrets, with some pretty difficult later parts, but a generous amount of power-ups and lives given to make your way through them. I was surprised at how many of the secrets I still remembered, including those nutty warp whistles.


Got all 3 of them, even though I didn’t use any of them, because why the hell not? I made my way through every level of every world over the course of 2 days, something you could never really do back in the day because 5-6 hours was an eternity in NES time when you had no saves or passwords. I had a lot of fun doing it too.


The level design and variety of locations and enemies was so much better than the previous games. Secrets were plentiful and tricky, but not impossible. All future Mario games built much more on the design of this one than the boring old original, and with good reason. This time I felt satisfaction at beating Bowser and taking it upon myself to discipline his children, rather than just being glad that it was over so I could stop playing. I didn’t even have to be drunk for this one!



What the hell let’s pack Super Mario World in there too.


This one still holds up pretty well too. Many well designed levels filled with secrets and brand new ways to straight up murder Bowser’s children and burn down their homes.


They even have a save feature this time around so you can entirely clear out the game all the way to Bowser legitimately for once. I’m pretty tired of writing about Mario at this point so let’s just skip right to the part where Bowser inexplicably shows up for the final battle in some kind of weird clown-copter for some reason.


In short, this one was also pretty fun, but again, had more than enough Mario for now. Still have never played Super Mario World 2. Something about playing as baby Mario didn’t appeal to me, oddly enough.

So…the lesson learned here today is: screw Super Mario Bros. 1 and 2, just go straight to 3 and “4”, that’s where the good stuff starts.

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